Turkish Influencer Charged with Obscenity for Pictures of "Sex Museum"

Merve Taskin, a Turkish Instagram influencer, is expected to appear in court for publishing photos that were deemed to be obscene. The pictures in question came from a trip she took with two of her friends to the Netherlands to celebrate her 22nd birthday. 

One of their stops included a visit to the Venustempel Museum in Amsterdam, where Taskin took pictures of herself and some of the souvenir items in the museum. The Venustempel Museum is also known as the famed Sex Museum in Amsterdam. Taskin uploaded her pictures posing with paraphilic imagery to her Instagram account with close to 600 thousand followers. A few months later, after getting home to Turkey, she was arrested for the criminal acts of posting obscene content.

On her Instagram, Taskin shared pictures of the souvenirs on sale in the museum, including a pasta shaped like a penis and a “sexy bottle opener.” “I shared these on my social networks because I genuinely thought they were funny,” Taskin explained in an interview with a UK-based news outlet. When she posted those pictures, the only thing Taskin had in mind was the funny jokes for her thousands of followers.

The Turkish government did not see the joke nor find her posts funny. In Erdogan’s Turkey, the criminal statutes are heavily influenced by Islamic laws. Sharing indecent and obscene content by anyone operating as a Turkish entity or citizen, especially those intended for a Turkish audience, are subject to Article 226 of Turkey’s penal code. Article 226 penalizes anyone who “broadcasts or publishes obscene written or audio-visual material.”

The definition of what constitutes obscene material is not readily defined in the Turkish penal code, and there’s no specification of what acts or images can be considered indecent. Taskin’s innocent jokes are considered obscene enough to warrant a possible 3-year jail sentence.

After her initial arrest, where she was released after giving a statement regarding the obscenity charges, she was arrested again. Her second arrest came months later, this time during her vacation in Canakkale. Taskin deleted the images from her social media so “they won’t complain again.” Much to her surprise, she received an SMS message instructing her to appear in court on October 26, 2021, where she will be formally charged with violating Article 226.

Her tour guide from Amsterdam — also of Turkish descent — said in an interview with a Netherlands-based news outlet, “The post was made abroad. What does that mean for Turkish/Dutch people if they post such images?” 

Monique van Marle, director of the Sex Museum, calls Taskin’s prosecution “absolutely ridiculous in an interview with the BBC.” They also reached out to Tasken in support and sent her a message saying they are “sorry to hear about the trouble,” calling Taskin a ‘great role model to other women.”

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